Ecuador | Birding the Southern Highlights

Ecuador | Birding the Southern Highlights

About this trip

Southern Ecuador has been relatively overlooked as a birding destination, yet is teeming with avifauna due to the region’s unique combination of habitats. The great diversity of vegetation found here has resulted in a high concentration of restricted-range birds, leading Bird Life International to designate the Chocó, Tumbesian, and Marañon regions as Endemic Bird Areas. Join Cayuga Bird Club on this 11-day program to explore several life zones and seek out rare and endemic species.
HIGH INTENSITY! This program is for serious birders. Expect at least 6-8 hours of birding each day.

Highlights

  • Explore diverse habitats at varying elevations in public and private protected areas, including Cajas and Podocarpus National Parks and Manglares Churute, Buenaventura, Jorupe, and Tapichalaca Reserves.
  • Seek out endemics like the Violet-throated Metaltail, El Oro Parakeet, El Oro Tapaculo, Jocotoco Antpitta, and others in the Chocó, Tumbesian, and Marañon centers of endemism.
  • Learn about the Jocotoco Foundation and its efforts to protect the high-elevation, critically endangered Blue-throated Hillstar, an endemic hummingbird discovered in 2017.
  • Bird along the 37-mile Loja-Zamora Road in search of eastern foothill and subtropical Andean forest species.
PLEASE NOTE: As safety and security are our highest priority, we have adopted extensive protocols to address COVID-19. Our field leaders are vaccinated and we require our travelers to be vaccinated. We follow strict field hygiene practices which are outlined on our website. If required, we arrange for Covid testing at the end of your program.

Reserve Risk-free - Registrations made for travel departing between now and December 31, 2022 are fully refundable with no cancellation penalties until the final payment deadline (95 days before departure). We strongly recommend purchasing travel protection.

Guayaquil

Aug 3, 2022

Welcome to Ecuador! Arrive in Guayaquil and transfer to your hotel for overnight.

Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde

Buenaventura

Aug 4, 2022

Depart from Guayaquil and drive an hour to visit the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve. Within the reserve's 121,000-plus acres of deciduous, moist lowland forest and mangrove estuaries, we can expect Horned Screamer, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Blue Heron, Cocoi Heron, Snail Kite, Pinnated Bittern, Savanna Hawk, White-throated Crake, Limpkin, and Masked Water-Tyrant. Then continue driving for another three hours to the Buenaventura Reserve in the subtropical area of El Oro province, located near the towns of Piñas and Zaruma. The area is renowned for being one of the most ornithologically rich and easily accessible sites in Ecuador. It protects a narrow zone of cloud forest habitat on the otherwise seasonally dry west slope of the Andes in Southern Ecuador. This reserve is home to El Oro Parakeet and El Oro Tapaculo, both of which are rare, critically endangered species endemic to Ecuador. Other important birds are Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Club-winged Manakin, Song Wren, Rufous-headed Chachalaca, and others. Anticipate moderate trail conditions throughout this trip.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Umbrellabird Lodge

Buenaventura

Aug 5, 2022

Rise early this morning for the two-hour drive in 4x4 pickups to Cerro de Arcos in the high páramo, where there are good chances to spot the Blue-throated Hillstar, discovered in 2017. Learn about the Jocotoco Foundation and its efforts to protect this high-elevation, critically endangered hummingbird. Lunch in the field. In the afternoon, continue birding at Buenaventura. The private, 4,150-acre reserve spans an elevation of 1,800 to 3,600 feet above sea level. It contains two important ecosystems, lowland tropical rainforest and foothill forest. This reserve is considered the southernmost region of the Chocó center of endemism, and has an influence of the dry Tumbesian center as well. Birds commonly seen in this area are Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Ochraceous Attila, Cinnamon Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Ecuadorian Thrush, Fasciated Wren, Buff-throated Saltator, Scrub Blackbird, White-whiskered Puffbird, Speckle-breasted Wren, Pacific Royal-Flycatcher, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Guira Tanager, Orange-crowned Euphonia, Gray Hawk, Ochraceous Attila, Black-striped Sparrow, and Brownish Twistwing.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Umbrellabird Lodge

Jorupe Reserve

Aug 6, 2022

Start the day with early morning birding in Buenaventura, then check out and drive south for approximately five hours toward the Jorupe Reserve near Macará on the Peruvian border. Birding stops along the way may yield specialties such as Watkins's Antpitta, Black-cowled Saltator, White-tailed Jay, White-edged Oriole, and others. Arrive at Jorupe Reserve late in the afternoon.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Urraca Lodge

Jorupe Reserve

Aug 7, 2022

A 2,600-acre private reserve, Jorupe is one of the last surviving dry forests in southwest Ecuador, all within the Tumbesian center of endemism. Among the specialties here are Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, and the Peruvian Screech-Owl. Other specialties seen in the area are Red-masked Parakeet, Pacific Parrotlet, Tumbes Swift, Gray-chinned Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat, Ecuadorian Trogon, Ecuadorian Piculet, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Blackish-headed Spinetail, Red-billed Scythebill, Collared Antshrike, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, Pacific Elaenia, Tumbes Pewee, Gray-breasted Flycatcher, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Slaty Becard, White-tailed Jay, Gray-and-gold Warbler, Black-capped Sparrow, White-edged Oriole, Yellow-tailed Oriole, and Saffron Siskin.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Urraca Lodge

Tapichalaca

Aug 8, 2022

Depart from Jorupe for the five-hour drive to Tapichalaca Reserve. Located between 5,900 and 10,170 feet above sea level, Tapichalaca encompasses humid temperate forest, also with a high level of endemism in its flora and fauna. It was here that the recently discovered Jocotoco Antpitta was found. We may also find Andean Pygmy-Owl, Bearded Guan, Golden-plumed Parakeet, White-capped Tanager, and White-faced Nunbird.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Casa Simpson

Tapichalaca

Aug 9, 2022

Today enjoy birding at Tapichalaca Reserve. In the afternoon, drive toward Valladolid, where we enter the northern part of the Marañon center of endemism, with specialties such as the Blackish Rail, Marañon Thrush, and Silver-backed Tanager. Return to Tapichalaca.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Casa Simpson

Copalinga Reserve

Aug 10, 2022

Early departure from Tapichalaca, then continue to the Loja-Zamora Road (3.5-hours approximately, including stops for birding). The Loja-Zamora Road is 37 miles long, and embraces elevations between 3,280 to 9,200 feet above sea level, encompassing the eastern foothill and subtropical forests of the Andes. Common birds seen in this area are Tyrian Metaltail, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Rufous Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Blackish Tapaculo, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and Pale-naped Brushfinch. Arrive at Copalinga Lodge and Reserve, near Rio Bombuscaro.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Copalinga Lodge

Cuenca

Aug 11, 2022

Birding in the morning. Rio Bombuscaro is in the lower elevations of Podocarpus National Park, and supports lower montane cloud forest rich in mixed species flocks. The area bird list stands at almost 300 species, including several threatened species such as the White-breasted Parakeet and Coppery-chested Jacamar. Other more common species include the Gray Tinamou, Little Tinamou, White-throated Quail-Dove, Wire-crested Thorntail, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Lanceolated Monklet, White-fronted Tyrannulet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Western Striped Manakin, and Chestnut-tipped Toucanet. This afternoon, travel about five hours along the picturesque route to Cuenca, with birding en route.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Santa Lucia Hotel

Guayaquil

Aug 12, 2022

Today is our last birding day, and we will spend this morning birding at the Cajas National Park focusing on high-altitude species. Targets include the endemic Violet-throated Metaltail, as well as the Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tit-like Dacnis, Giant Conebill, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Carunculated Caracara, and the legendary Andean Condor. After lunch in the area, continue for a four-hour drive to Guayaquil. Some flights may leave this evening; those participants will depart for the airport after a farewell dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Oro Verde

Depart

Aug 13, 2022

Head to the airport for flights home.

Breakfast- included